The first painting of 72 virgins is icy, frozen, heavy. Four young women, hieratic, sit on sparse chairs under the harsh hospital lights. As actress and playwright Tamara Saadé explains, Mehdi-Georges Lahlou’s theatrical performance at Théâtre 14 in Paris stems from his work as a visual artist. “While Mehdi-Georges has done a few productions, he is primarily a visual artist and interested in the stage. This show is an extension of an already started plastic project called 72 Vierges, for which he had sculpted his face in white with white veils in 72 times. There he wanted to make it a live performance by inserting four actresses into the installation,” specifies the young Lebanese, who is currently collaborating with several theater groups. Mehdi-Georges Lahlou’s dramaturgical orientation is not narrative, but rather post-dramatic. The starting point of his latest work is a linguistic question. “Mehdi-Georges began with the story of the 72 virgins who would await the martyrs. He wanted to deflect this projection, which is not in the sacred texts and is being used for political purposes. He researched with Moroccan playwright Youness Anzane the word “huri” to refer to the promised virgins, and they determined that in the lyrics this term could mean “having big black eyes” or the same “fruit” without gender Relation. So they imagined this waiting room in paradise where four young girls were waiting,” explains the actress.
Singing and dancing take the stage
Gradually, the four women on stage begin to make sounds resembling those of birds, then words, song and dance invade the stage, which is decorated with colorful moucharabiehs. Then Syrian actress Hala Omran utters a call to prayer, which she redirects to the tune of Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” and paradise turns into a nightclub. Tamara Saadé emphasizes the symbolic dimension of this scenic metamorphosis. “It’s a way of showing a scattered voice. We start expressing ourselves in French and Arabic, taking into account the different meanings of the word houri. When the space turns into a cabaret, each of us speaks in an improvised way and the theater joins the performance, where dance and body are essential as we tell our anecdotes that reveal us as women. We start from the figure of the “Huri” who is standard and doesn’t speak, to then take form and embody ourselves. Our personal stories are based on the soundtrack by Lebanese-born Palestinian rapper Osloob. »
Snippets of narrative shared on stage include an actress’ declaration of love for her husband Arnaud and the story of their encounter. Tamara conveys the feeling of a romantic relationship based on a contract based entirely on a total commitment to a “cause” that leads to pregnancy.
Prior to Théâtre 14, 72 Vierges was produced last October at the National Drama Center in Rouen with 8 performances and then played at the Center Wallonie-Bruxelles in Paris. Tamara Saadé states that the reception of this show depends on everyone’s ability to absorb a work with the feeling rather than the intellect. “At Theater 14, some people in the audience told me that they didn’t see what it was about at all. There have been misunderstandings about the sounds we make or the dances that lead us to exhaustion. It is a work that plays with symbols, with intuition and feelings, in which Mehdi-Georges conveys his vision of women and freedom. We also find all his work on religious subjects, he who has a Spanish mother and a Moroccan father. Also, one of his installations is high heels and a prayer rug. In my opinion, 72 virgins is not blasphemy, they are artists trying to make questions more personal, playing with symbols, shaking them up and making them more intimate”, concludes the leading actress of the film La Grande Nuit (Sharon Hakim , 2021).
The first painting of 72 virgins is icy, frozen, heavy. Four young women, hieratic, sit on sparse chairs under the harsh hospital lights. As actress and playwright Tamara Saadé explains, Mehdi-Georges Lahlou’s theatrical performance at Théâtre 14 in Paris stems from his work as a visual artist. “If Mehdi-Georges…
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